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Inside Deep Throat
Director: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Linda Lovelace, Harry Reems
pon their film’s release in the summer of 1972, the creators and performers of the pornographic feature Deep Throat found themselves at the epicenter of a cultural war. Before Christian Coalition boycotts and breathless, right-wing radio rants became both the punishers of blue material purveyors and the inadvertent buying guides for naughty-minded society, the US government performed the service itself behind the banner of Obscenity Laws. Deep Throat’s timing and initial popularity served as notice for the forces of repression to test out the teeth of their cultural watchdog by prosecuting as many people involved with the film’s production and distribution as possible. Thus, Deep Throat, which would have simply been known as, “that porno that coined the term for a heretofore unseen method of fellatio,” took on the role of lightning rod for the free speech vs. decency debate.
I think we know why this woman is smiling...
Inside Deep Throat, through reflections of people on both sides of the fight and pop-culture luminaries who were of age at the time, allows the younger portion of its audience to understand how a low-budgeted, fairly unremarkable adult film (other than Linda Lovelace’s considerable oral skills) rode a wave of controversy to become the most (its producers claim) profitable movie ever made. To date, Deep Throat has raked in over 600 million dollars, yet cost only $25,000 to produce. In addition to offering an explanation for its namesake’s success, Inside Deep Throat gives its viewer a glimpse into the social climate of the day. Generally, directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato spend a good deal of the time relaying to their audience the message that the phenomenon of Deep Throat had little to do with the picture itself. Persecution by conservatives with access to the government made the picture what it represents to the generation who witnessed its fallout.
Writer/Director tandem Bailey and Barbato, through the voice of the rather cleverly chosen Dennis Hopper, relate that the $25,000 porno was deemed quite a threat by faithfully reconstructing the conservative backlash. So important was Deep Throat that it was subject to a Supreme Court decision on obscenity laws and prompted Nixon to launch a commission with the intent of proving pornography bad for one’s health. When the report from Nixon’s scientists came back with the finding that porn seemed to have no ill effects on humans, that line of attack was immediately shelved. Instead, the governmental repressors focused on the mafia background of the films financiers and created a complex conspiracy case around the cross-country distribution of obscene materials. Star Harry Reems was convicted on such conspiracy charges and was sentenced to five years in prison (successfully appealed later).
In addition to chronicling the crimes against Deep Throat, the filmmakers do quite well extracting humor as well as candid opinions from their subjects. Interviews with location scout Larry Parrish and producer Ron Wertheim had the entire audience in stitches with their wild-eyed yet matter-of-fact dismissals of the movie itself. Also, John Waters and Dick Cavett are quite entertaining.
As the old saying goes, it's the moustache that makes the man...
But in the end, Bailey and Barbato fail to keep the narrative focused and their effort devolves into a, “Look! Bill Maher and Gore Vidal talking about Deep Throat!” sideshow while Hopper becomes overly nostalgic for the counterculture of the time. Star Linda Lovelace’s transformation from porn star to anti-porn crusader back to Playboy model is undeveloped; as is her relationship with her rather creepy husband, whom she later claimed forced her to participate in the film. Bailey and Barbato can get a pass for their omissions because Linda died in an auto accident a few years back.
Inside Deep Throat, though flawed, is a thoroughly entertaining look at a past era of repression vs. free speech fighting. If round two was the Janet Jackson Boobgate and Team Bush came out victorious, round one was the controversy surrounding Deep Throat with the side of "adult" sensibilities carrying the day. Inside Deep Throat is a chance to experience a time when overbearing morals were trumped by laid-back sensibilities; while watching some humorous and entertaining recollections; all in all, it’s worthwhile if you don’t mind the subject matter.
By: Kevin Worrall
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